HBO Def poet visits Humboldt State

On Monday evening the Kate Buchanan Room was host to “What Are We Thinking?”

The event served as a critical analysis of pop culture and its role in African-American culture presented by poet and spoken word artist Ise Lyfe.

During his presentation, Lyfe expressed that something is terribly wrong within the current mindset of African-Americans.

Much of this mindset can be attributed to the endless shows, movies and music that make a caricature of Black culture. Those who are not familiar with Black culture on a personal level, inadvertently absorb these stereotypes.

The problem is when African-Americans begin to accept and portray the stereotypes fed to them about themselves and treat one another based off these biased depictions.

“The biggest problem Black people face today is being too caught up in individualism and not being concerned about the masses,” Ise Lyfe said this evening.

“Having no dignity within our people… If you do not care about the people, then what do you care about?”

The overall message of Ise Lyfe’s performance was to illustrate to Black students the need for them to get “off the fence.”

Lyfe discussed how African-Americans seem to be so divided that they cannot agree on fundamental issues like a cultural identity. 

He illustrated the need to have discussions about the current state of affairs and to develop a sense of racial self-esteem to be exhibited through an overall respect for one another.

Samantha Thompsen, a HSU student majoring in social work attended the event.

“It was very powerful. I liked his comments about making the issues apparent and relevant for those who want to learn,” Thompsen said.

Not strictly trying to enlighten those who are not ready, but making the knowledge available to those who are.”

Lyfe is an Oakland, CA native who believes that every human being should have access to food, water and shelter. Out of high school, he obtained a job at Def Jam as Regional Marketer. During his employment he was exposed to the ills that Black people are still dealing with to this day.

Ise Lyfe

“No matter the city or state they live in, the condition of Black people all over the world is still struggle; with the same things, in different places,” Ise Lyfe said.

Lyfe’s career began with a play entitled “Pistols and Prayers” which he wrote and performed in. It was a critique of American apathy and how society avoids dealing with real issues.

He then began giving speeches at colleges and universities where he performed his play’s. Ise Lyfe was motivated to have dialogue about these issues outside of the stage and is focused on working with students.

He has been published in The Huffington Post, Education News as well as The New York Times. In addition, he published a book entitled “Pistols & Prayers: A collection of poems, rhymes, journal entries and anecdotes.”

Steven Bell works with the Office of Retention and Inclusion at HSU and is the advisor to Brothers United, the student organization responsible for bringing Ise Lyfe to HSU.

“I was hoping to appeal to the body of Black students on campus especially. There is a common un-comfortability, an uncertainness around Blackness that I felt Ise’s message could address,” Bell said.

“I am hoping that hearing him will spark more action within the student body and develop a sense of pride within Black students at Humboldt State.”

Ise Lyfe recites the lyrics to a song by one of Hip Hop’s most prominent pioneers, none other than the legendary KRS-One.

“Hip-Hop ’95:

This is not the first time I came to the planet,

But every time I come, only a few could understand it.

I came as Isis, my words they tried to ban it.

I came as Moses, they couldn’t follow my commandments.

I came as Solomon to a people that were lost.

I came as Jesus, but they nailed me to a cross.

I came as Harriet Tubman; I put the truth to Sojourner.

Other times, I had to come as Nat Turner.

They tried to burn me, lynch me and starve me.

So I had to come back as Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley

They tried to harm me; I used to be Malcolm X

Now I’m on the planet as the one called KRS

One, one, one!”

fast forward to Hip Hop 2010 we have Drake with lyrics like:

Youda, youda best,

Youda, youda best,

youda, youda best.”

(Originally published in HSU’s campus newspaper The Lumberjack in 2014)

About slausongirl

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism.

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